Richard Gere takes on Salvini over migrants from aboard rescue boat in Mediterranean Sea - The Libyan Report

Richard Gere takes on Salvini over migrants from aboard rescue boat in Mediterranean Sea

Actor Richard Gere has taken on Italian far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini from aboard a rescue boat in the Mediterranean Sea.

“Demonising people has to stop everywhere on the planet, and it will stop if we say stop,” Mr Gere said after renting a boat to bring water and foot to refugees stranded aboard the Spanish Open Arms rescue boat on Friday.

Mr Gere said he wasn’t interested in talking about Mr Salvini or Italian affairs but appeared to draw a parallel between Mr Salvini’s hardline policies against rescue boats and US President Donald Trump’s moves to stop migrants crossing the border from Mexico.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view. From 15p €0.18 $0.18 USD 0.27 a day, more exclusives, analysis and extras.

“We have our problems with refugees coming from Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico ... It's very similar to what you are going through here,” he said.

He called for politics to be set aside when lives are in danger.

Shape Created with Sketch. In pictures: A day of refugee rescues in the Mediterranean Sea Show all 7 left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. In pictures: A day of refugee rescues in the Mediterranean Sea 1/7 A baby being taken on to MSF's Bourbon Argos ship from a boat carrying 130 migrants and refugees Lizzie Dearden 2/7 A refugee boat carrying 101 people being rescued by MSF's Bourbon Argos Lizzie Dearden 3/7 A refugee boat carrying 101 people being rescued by MSF's Bourbon Argos all images by Lizzie Dearden 4/7 A baby among refugees on a boat carrying 185 people off the coast of Libya Lizzie Dearden 5/7 Migrants and refugees sleeping after being rescued by MSF's Bourbon Argos ship Lizzie Dearden 6/7 A crew from MSF's Bourbon Argos ship rescuing a boat carrying 130 migrants and refugees off the coast of Libya, at sunrise Lizzie Dearden 7/7 A woman in a stretcher being lifted onto MSF's Bourbon Argos ship from a boat carrying 130 migrants and refugees off the coast of Libya Lizzie Dearden 1/7 A baby being taken on to MSF's Bourbon Argos ship from a boat carrying 130 migrants and refugees Lizzie Dearden 2/7 A refugee boat carrying 101 people being rescued by MSF's Bourbon Argos Lizzie Dearden 3/7 A refugee boat carrying 101 people being rescued by MSF's Bourbon Argos all images by Lizzie Dearden 4/7 A baby among refugees on a boat carrying 185 people off the coast of Libya Lizzie Dearden 5/7 Migrants and refugees sleeping after being rescued by MSF's Bourbon Argos ship Lizzie Dearden 6/7 A crew from MSF's Bourbon Argos ship rescuing a boat carrying 130 migrants and refugees off the coast of Libya, at sunrise Lizzie Dearden 7/7 A woman in a stretcher being lifted onto MSF's Bourbon Argos ship from a boat carrying 130 migrants and refugees off the coast of Libya Lizzie Dearden

“These are extraordinary people, they are so strong, they have been such through such horrors,” Mr Gere said about the rescued passengers.

“Their passage from their home counties to Libya, what they had to endure, the women above all. [...] The women had been all raped, multiple times. The men tortured in prison, not just once but multiple times.

“What most people refer to as migrants, I refer to as refugees that are running from a fire.”

Mr Salvini reacted with characteristic sardonic mockery.

“Given that this generous millionaire is voicing concern for the fate of the Open Arms migrants, we thank him: he can take back to Hollywood, on his private plane, all the people aboard and support them in his villas. Thank you Richard!” he said in a statement.

Last week, Mr Salvini and his far-right Lega party pushed through parliament a controversial law fining refugee rescue boats up to €1m (£918,000) if they take stranded migrants to Italy without authorisation.

The sanctions introduced by the new law also include the arrest of boat captains and the confiscation of the vessel.

The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, said it was concerned that the law could put lives at risk.

The Open Arms remains at sea after being denied permission to enter ports in Italy and Malta.

It carried some 160 people rescued at sea on two different occasions since it started its mission on 2 August.

Malta offered to let the ship disembark 39 passengers who were rescued within the Maltese search and rescue zone – an area of national and international waters where Malta is responsible for search and rescue operations.

But Maltese authorities said in a statement they would refuse permission to disembark the other 121 passengers, who were rescued “in an area where Malta is neither responsible nor the competent coordinating authority.”

“Malta can only shoulder its own responsibility since other solutions are not forthcoming,” the statement continued.

Salvini also said he would sign orders specifically banning the Open Arms and the Norwegian-flagged migrant rescue ship Ocean Viking, a rescue boat run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and SOS Mediterranée, from Italian territory.

“Italy is not a refugee camp for Europe. Go either to Spain or Norway,” he told the Italian public broadcaster Rai.

The first 121 passengers were rescued in the Libyan search and rescue zone – which was created in 2017 as part of a deal with Italy in which Libya would co-operate to curb migration to Europe in exchange for boats, training and funding.

Standoffs between charity rescue boats and southern European countries have become common in the last year as boat captains refuse to take migrants to Libya claiming it is not a “safe port”. Violence is ravaging parts of Libya and there are reports of refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centres being killed by airstrikes and caught in the crossfire.

Without an agreement over who should accept migrants after they disembark, European states have refused port to some vessels, leaving them stranded at sea for days awaiting a solution.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says 840 people have died this year crossing the Mediterranean. Of those, 576 were on the perilous central route from Libya. That figure is down by half from a year earlier.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP source